When summer bugs become bothersome this year, create safe, natural repellents in your kitchen. Or gather repellents from your garden in the form of fragrant herbs that most pests will avoid. Mosquitoes, gnats, and fleas. The mints, especially pennyroyal, are natural insect repellents. Simply gather a handful of this fresh-smelling herb when mosquitoes or gnats start to swarm. Rub the crushed leaves on exposed skin. (Pennyroyal grows easily from seed and will take over your garden if you let it.)
Rid the doghouse of fleas with fresh pennyroyal, too. Remove old leaves and add fresh every few days during the summer. The folks at Mother Earth News recommend a flea collar using clothesline soaked in oil of pennyroyal. The collar needs to be soaked every two weeks.
Herbal experts also recommend camomile as an effective mosquito repellent. Make a strong tea of sweet apple-smelling camomile blossoms (fresh or dried) by steeping one-third to one-half cup of herb in a teapot of boiling water for 20 minutes.
Splash the cooled liquid on exposed parts of the body or add the daisy-yellow liquid to your bath water. Instead of toweling off, let the tea dry on the skin.
This fragrant flower bath will also help rid your cat or dog of fleas. You may also want to stitch up a small pillow of dried herbs for your pet's sleeping place by using equal parts of camomile and pennyroyal.
To ward off mosquitoes, you can also use old-fashioned lemony citronella oil. (All the dried herbs and oils should be available at little cost.)
Ants. To get rid of ants, clean the kitchen shelves thoroughly, especially sticky honey, molasses, syrup, or jelly jars. Then sprinkle the whole area with fine salt. Leave it for a while; it'll do the job.
A garden mint that repels ants is catnip. A sprinkling of crushed leaves on ant trails should be effective.
For a thorough extermination, soak a sponge in sweet syrup made by dissolving honey or sugar in hot water. Wring out the excess liquid and set a saturated sponge wherever ants congregate. When the sponge is swarming, drop it in boiling water and start again.
Moths. For moth control in drawers containing woolen sweaters, shawls, and blankets, try rosemary leaves from the garden. Dry these narrow, spicy-smelling leaves by spreading them on paper or screening in an airy room. Then sew into little cloth bags to tuck into storage drawers and chests, or hang with yarn in your closets.
American pennyroyal can come to your aid again as a moth repellent. Dry in a cool, airy place for a week or two until the leaves are crisp and crumbly. Then sew into little sachets. Use your imagination with pretty fabrics, perky ribbons, and nostalgic lace. These, by the way, make great gifts.
Oil of cedarwood and oil of sandalwood are effective moth-chasers. Saturate cotton balls with either oil and distribute throughout your closets in small dishes. We use chips of the cedarwood itself, loosely wrapped in cheesecloth.
Experts also recommend sachets made from any of the following aromatic herbs: camphorwood, gray santolina, sandalwood, southernwood, tansy, or wormwood. Add spices -- such as whole cloves, cinnamon, mint, thyme, and peppercorns from your kitchen cupboard -- if desired.
According to the late Euell Gibbons, a good moth repellent can be made with one pound fragrant pine needles mixed with one ounce cedar shavings and one-half ounce sassafras root shavings.
After lining a storage drawer with paper, sprinkle the mixture of shavings and pine needles around, covering them with a layer of clean sheeting. Tack the cloth down securely and then add your woolens. Not only will it keep the moths away, but your woolens will come out of storage with a wonderful outdoors aroma.